Letters of Paul and Seneca

PAUL AND SENECA, LETTERS OF sen’ ə kə. A collection of fourteen letters ostensibly exchanged between Paul and Seneca, the Rom. philosopher and tutor of the emperor Nero. The two men were contemporaries (Seneca died, according to Jerome, “two years before the glorious martyrdom of Peter and Paul”); they might have met in Rome (there have been attempts to make Seneca influential in securing Paul’s acquittal); and there are points of contact between Christianity and the Stoicism that Seneca professed. The letters, however, are clear fiction, obviously intended to enlist the prestige and authority of the philosopher in support of the Christian faith. He writes in admiration of Paul and his epistles (Galatians and the Corinthian letters are expressly mentioned), observes that the emperor himself had wondered “how a man who had not had the usual education was capable of such thoughts,” and expresses his distress at the continuing persecution of Christians.

Jerome knew twelve of the letters, quoted the twelfth, and was led by them to enroll Seneca among Christian authors (vir. ill. III. 12); they were also known to Augustine. The other two were added later: they show differences of style, the dates they offer do not tally, and Jerome could not have failed to use the last had he known it. The collection thus goes back to the 4th cent.; extant MSS date from the ninth. Further testimony is provided by a passage inserted in the Passion of Paul attributed to Linus.

Bibliography

ANT, 480ff.; NTAp. II, 133ff.; Sevenster, Paul and Seneca (1961).